Teenage entrepreneur strives to flip the switch on homelessness.
By Sarah Fox
When he was just 14, David Qiu travelled to a camp in Northern Quebec. There he met Cree youth who shared their stories and unclouded his perception of people living in poverty. “Many of them feel alone, uncared for, and alienated.”
When David returned to Ottawa, he knew he wanted to help—he just had to figure out how.
He started by delivering care packages to the homeless. It was through this volunteer work that he met Duki, an aspiring indigenous filmmaker; Maggie, a Parliament Hill panhandler; and Dollarama Dave.
After getting to know these people and others, David began to see their circumstances differently. He learned that people can end up on the street due to a complex series of events. Recognizing the unique and harrowing character of each individual’s story, David was eager to share this new perspective and decided to post their stories online. “It was about bridging the very gap we created between us and the homeless.”
David is now at work to create an app that will connect Canadians around similar causes. He hopes his business aspirations will help to fuel his determination to help the homeless.
For David, where there’s passion, there must be a plan.
David’s 5 tips on how to be a change-maker:
1. “Your story is your journey.” David’s passion evolved through personal experience. The connections he made in Quebec were the first of many. After hearing so many stirring stories, David decided he had to do something. “Everything just added up to push me through that door.”
2. “Don’t let other people tell you what to do. You will know what’s right.” With guidance from a mentor and support from friends, David navigated the challenges of starting a non-profit at a young age. However, if something didn’t feel right, he followed that feeling.
3. “Connect with the people around you.” David held meetings in a public space to glean interest from onlookers, he dropped his elevator pitch at networking events and he encouraged friends across the country to start similar programs. “You’ll never know who will help you get through the obstacles on your journey until you share your story and tell them what you do.”
4. “Establish a support system.” In the beginning, David’s non-profit was a hierarchy—run from the top down. It was one of his biggest tactical errors. As important as it is to run a well-oiled machine, David now says, “you need to be there as a friend to them, too. That’s how you will get people to believe in you.”
5. “Spend time with the people whose lives you’re trying to impact.” David put in effort to make sure he understood the concerns of Duki, Maggie and Dollarama Dave. “Know the people you’re working with. Better yet, invite them to work with you.”